Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Tignes & Scotland

April 23rd 2005 Tignes - Sunshine

Avalanche January 2009 Scotland - Hurricane
2009 is going out the way it came in on the mountains, with sad news of avalanche fatalities. The above picture from Jan 2009 was when I called it a day after digging out yet another young person from a triple fatal avalanche accident. Enough was enough for me. Spare a thought for the rescuers though.  Scottish avalanches, especially on the West coast often involve natural terrain traps called "Corries" were the rescuers have to expose themselves to secondary slides from the side, or from secondary loading from the usual very strong winds which can be at a mean of 60mph gusting 100+.  Recovery from these places is not without risk to these guys.  The LMRT lads in Coire na Ciste on the Ben today would have been in just such a position. 
"Chapeau" !

Monday, 28 December 2009

Hard frost for many nights, relatively high humidity, and  hoar frost and icing at all levels.  Seems very like the conditions we skied in 2 years ago in Les Trois Valley's.  Then I looked at the shallow snow pack and snow profile and the hoar layer and reckoned that next snowfall the side and true off piste would be very dangerous.  A week later, a meter of snow in high winds and 16 folk had died including a pisteuer.  By the seasons end throughout the Northern alps the total had reached 32.  90% of the victim triggered slides could be traced back to the early season layer of hoaring.  Now, Scotland's not the alps.  BUT - if it snows on what we have now,  without the usual maritime thaw we normally get from prevailing frontal systems, then things could be interesting. Click article to enlarge:

Fiona, my wifes brother lives in Silverton, and likes the steep and the deep. Not far from Ouray, this old silver mining town has nice we coffee shop called the "Avalanche Coffee Shop" well named.  Pic shows Chris, Issac his son, and John & Mary (Fionas M&D)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Snow, Snow Everywhere & -16c

Too cold to get out on the bike at the moment so it's turbo sessions at - 9 in my shed.  Despite the cold it's really nice when you can get to the sun so lots of family walks.

Duncan, Esther, Fiona & Rebekah - Xmas Day 2009

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Avalanche Control & Explosives

Up at Nevis Range today in -8c using explosives for avalanche control.  Using plastic drainpipe or curved cardboard and thoughtful placing of the det, it is possible to shape the charge into the slope. Some improvised shapers in the photos including Marks exploding white roll which he is intimidating Willy with. Great crack.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

What Causes Early Arthritis in Knees?

PM Images/Getty Images
Recently, Dr. Constance R. Chu, the Albert Ferguson associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Cartilage Restoration Center there, confirmed a theory, and found herself troubled by the results. It turned out that if you dropped a heavy weight onto parts of a cow’s knee joint from various heights, the joint was hurt. (While the parts of the joint were damaged, the cow itself was uninjured by the experiment; the knees came from a local abattoir.) When the weight hit the joint’s surface cartilage with great speed and force, the bone and cartilage fractured. No surprise there. But it is what happened in Dr. Chu’s experiment when the impact was more subtle — closer to, for instance, the perturbations inside a human knee when a ligament is torn — that concerned her. She found that with lighter impact, the various parts of the knee appeared, visually at least, to be fine.
Phys Ed
But when Dr. Chu and her colleagues examined the cartilage cells just below the placid surface, they found carnage. “Many of the cells within the impact zone” — the area that had been directly thwacked by the weight — “were dead,” she said. They died instantly. More insidiously, other cartilage cells, those outside the injury site, began to die in the hours and days after the impact. “We saw an expanding zone of death,” Dr. Chu said. By the end of her group’s planned observation period, four days after the impact, cartilage cells well away from the original injury site were still dying.
The results are fascinating, in a gruesome sort of way. But why should escalating damage to cows’ cartilage matter to the average active human? Well, Dr. Chu says, this study, which was just published in the December issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, in conjunction with other researchers’ findings, may help to explain why, she said, “I’m seeing so many patients in their 20s and 30s with knee arthritis after joint injury.”
Human knees (as well as bovine ones) are remarkable instruments, able to bear large loads and pivot in multiple directions. But they also damage easily, as evidenced by the approximately 175,000 anterior-cruciate-ligament-reconstruction operations performed in the United States every year, a number that, by all estimates, has risen steeply in the past decade or so. (No agency tracks the procedures.) Many of these operations are being done now on teenagers, who rip an A.C.L. during a soccer or basketball game. (A.C.L. operations were relatively uncommon in young people before youth sports grew so popular.) Others are in men and women in their 20s and 30s who fall on the ski slopes, for instance.
What has been less remarked upon is the concomitant growth, Dr. Chu says, in cases of exceptionally early-onset arthritis. Once a disease associated primarily with people past retirement age (and still most prevalent in that age group), osteoarthritis, or degeneration of the cartilage in the knee, has been showing up in much younger people lately. “It’s not only in my practice,” Dr. Chu said. “Most orthopedic surgeons are seeing very young people with very old knees.”
An early and mass death of some of their cartilage cells may help to explain why, Dr. Chu says. If the results of her cow study can be extrapolated to human knees, then it’s possible that ripping an A.C.L. doesn’t damage just the A.C.L. The trauma from the incident affects the knee’s cartilage cells, too. These cells make up the tissue that coats the ends of the knee bones. Without this coating, the bones rub against each other. Pain and disability can follow.
It’s not yet fully clear, Dr. Chu says, what kills off the cartilage cells located away from the injury site. “The cells could have been injured by the initial impact, not recover and die,” she said. “They could be killed from exposure to noxious substances released by cells that have died. It could also be a combination of the two.” The result is a patch of cartilage in the knee that no longer functions well, if at all. “In a healthy knee, the cartilage is repairing itself all the time,” Dr. Chu said. “But if one loses too many cartilage cells, there can be too few cartilage cells to repair and maintain the cartilage in good condition.”
Unfortunately, the damage to the cartilage cells is invisible, Dr. Chu says. The dead or dying cells don’t show up on a typical M.R.I. scan. “The surface” of the cartilage “looks fine,” she says. The knee, in fact, after the A.C.L. reconstruction surgery, seems to have fully recovered. People return to full activity, including soccer games or skiing, “without realizing that their cartilage is weaker now,” and more prone to re-injury and disintegration, resulting in arthritis.
Not everyone who suffers an A.C.L. tear or other serious knee injury develops early arthritis, of course. “Right now, a good guess is that about 50 percent” will have clinical arthritis “within 5 to 10 years” after the injury, Dr. Chu said (meaning, for a 15-year-old, by the time he or she is 20 or 25, and for a 30-year-old, probably before he or she turns 40). “That’s quite a large number.”
Dr. Chu and many other researchers across the country are trying to develop methods to determine which people will develop arthritis after a knee injury and why. “Many labs are interested in this question,” she said. But for the moment, no one has had much success.
There also are no treatments yet available to slow or stop the deaths of cartilage cells in humans due to an injury. But, Dr. Chu says, one possible response is to “avoid overloading” the injured knee, to coddle the joint, perhaps a little more than might feel necessary. “You may want to alter your activities, even if the knee seems recovered and feels fine,” she said. “Maybe choose bicycling over marathon running,” she said. (For those who recall an earlier Phys Ed column about how running does not appear to harm knees, that finding applied to people who’d never suffered a major knee injury in the past.) The expectation, Dr. Chu says, is that the remaining, weakened cartilage cells will be “protected from a second assault that they might be able to resist when healthy, but are more vulnerable to after injury.” If you are careful with the knee, in other words, you probably lessen your chances of developing arthritis.
But that’s not necessarily a message active people want to hear. “I just had a teenage girl in here who’s only three months out” from an A.C.L. reconstruction, Dr. Chu said. “She felt great and wanted to know if she could go ski. It’s hard to tell someone like that that you just don’t know if she’ll ever have a completely healthy knee.”

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Joe's Advice on Running Faster

Running Faster

There’s a good chance you can lower your running times by simply refining your running skills. Speed skill is so important to running that I have the athletes I coach do drills and other skill-enhancing workouts every week throughout the year. The skills that need mastering are simple and few.

Biomechanically, there are only two things you can do to run faster. You can run with a faster cadence or you can run with a longer stride. The fastest runners in the world, such as the Kenyans, do both of these. The place for you to start in improving your running efficiency is with cadence. Let’s examine how you can do that.

The next time you go to a race or watch one on TV check the cadence of a few select elite runners. To do this count every time a runner’s right foot strikes the road for 20 seconds and then multiply by three. The Kenyans are running at a cadence of 94 to 98 even late in a long race such as a marathon. The others generally have a cadence of 90 to 94. So the only way these lower-cadence runners can keep up with the Kenyans is to lengthen their strides. That’s inefficient because it produces a bit of vertical oscillation. They bounce up and down just a slight bit too much. And since the finish line is in a horizontal plane, energy expended vertically is mostly wasted.

Count your cadence the next time you are out for a run. If you’re like most age group triathletes it will be in the range of 76 to 86. And the slower an age grouper runs the lower their cadence becomes. Elite runners tend to keep their cadence about the same even when running slowly. They’ve trained their nervous systems to fire at a set rate which isn’t appreciably altered by pace.

Besides reducing vertical oscillation, running with a higher cadence means the foot spends less time in contact with the ground. That means running faster. Until your foot comes off the ground you aren’t going any place. It’s like an anchor.

So let’s work the other direction now – from foot contact time back up the chain to cadence – to see how we can improve your running times. 

To minimize foot contact time you need to reduce the angle at which your foot comes in contact with the road surface. If you land on the heel with your toes pointing skyward at about a 30-degree angle, which is common for slower runners, it will take a relatively long time for the foot to be lowered to the pavement and then to rock forward and finally come off the ground at the toes. This will take only a few more milliseconds than had you put your foot down flat on the pavement and then toed off. But those extra milliseconds for each footstrike add up by the finish line.

It’s alright to have a slight heel-first contact with the road. But it should be so slight that someone you’re running at would not be able to see the bottoms of your shoes. You can check this for yourself by having that person shoot a video of you running at the camera. Do you see black soles? If so, you have an exaggerated heel strike. Minimizing it will speed you up.

How can you learn to minimize heel strike? Or, to put it another way, what causes you to land on your heel with your toes high off the ground? The answer to this latter question has to do with your knee. The only way to land on your heel is to lock, or nearly lock, your knee out straight. This is what you would do if you were running fast and trying to stop abruptly. You would straighten your knee and land on your heel. So running this way is like running with the brakes on. No wonder it slows you down.

The fastest way to experience flat-footed running is to run with your shoes off. Shoes with their often thick, rubber heels seem to be saying to us, “land here.” As soon as you take them off you’re back to the way our ancient ancestors ran on the grassy plains of Africa. We’re also running the way the Kenyan kids learn to run – without shoes.

I have the triathletes I coach do a drill called “strides” almost every week in the Base period. If they can do this without shoes, all the better. Often they can’t because snow and cold weather in a winter Base period make this impractical. But whenever they can they are encouraged to do this drill shoeless. This may be on a treadmill during the winter. Another option is to do this drill in “water walkers” – light, slipper-like shoes that fit snugly around the foot and are designed for the beach. (Be careful at first not to do a lot of barefoot running initially as you may well develop tender tendons as your feet and legs adapt.)

The strides drill is simple. Go to a park or other grassy area that has a very slight downhill grade of about one percent for 150 yards or so. Warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then take off your shoes (or put on the water walkers) and run down the hill for 20 seconds. Do this six to eight times in a session. This should be a fairly fast run, but you could go much faster. In other words, hold back just a little bit. Focus on a flat-footed landing with the knee slightly bent. Count every time your right foot strikes the ground. Your goal is 30 to 32. That’s a cadence of 90 to 96. Don’t try to go above 96. Note a landmark where you completed the 20-second stride. If you start at the same spot for each stride, during the workout, as you warm up even more, you’ll finish farther down the course indicating that your stride is also getting longer since cadence remains steady. You’re now running like a Kenyan.

Now for the hard part of the drill – at least for most type-A triathletes: Turn and walk back to the start point. Fatigue is the enemy of skill development. Walking will make sure you aren’t fatiguing as the workout proceeds.

As your fitness improves you can insert drills into the walking portions. Start by doing skips as you did when you were a kid. Do 50 total skips on the recovery. This will further ingrain the flat-foot, slightly knee-bent landing. Later in the Base period do these skips for height. How high can you skip? Skipping for height builds power in your legs which in turn increases stride length – without even trying.

When out for your normal Base training runs occasionally check your cadence. Try to raise it by two or three RPM. This will feel awkward at first, as if you are running with baby steps. And your heart rate will probably rise even though you aren’t going any faster. It will take a while for your nervous system to adapt to a higher cadence. During this time you may seem to be going the wrong direction. That’s common and necessary if you are to eventually run faster as your body adapts. Hang in there.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Staff Training

Instead of St Anton skiing the staff have made do with Glencoe, Xscape and adventures of the two wheeled variety on the local "freeride" trails.  Despite some pretty dubious looking bikes all are strong riders and "gung ho" as you would expect from 1st Earth Division protected activists.  Spectacular fall by Millsy and a beauty by me -  not caught on camera.

Paul & Andy falling into the bushes on "Blueberry Wood"

Andy joining Paul

At the Mast on the top of Meal Mhor

Greg & Andy on the way down before "Eyores Wood"

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Bealach Beag Sportive Entries are Open

 Oscar Peiro on/off the 06 TdF.  The descent into Appelcross scares me shitless hence I will no doubt loose several dozen places so I don't end up like this!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Winter Toolbox

Training Intensity
Thanks to PEZ and Matt McNamara for this article to make you think about winter training

Do you follow the classical model and build fitness through long hours of low intensity, or do you grab edge of the sword and undertake the higher intensity model that is all the rage in chat rooms, books and training blogs?

From the dawn of the endurance cycling, long slow distance (LSD) rides have been argued as fundamental to one’s improvement and success. Small ring rides, heart rate restricted rides in Zone 2, and long, long hours have been extolled by coaches and physiologists for decades. More recently, with the advent and rise of power based training a new mantra has taken hold – using steady state, threshold efforts as the foundation of your fitness paradigm. Well respected coaches and physiologists promote this model with equal vigor So which is best? The answer is - it depends. This week we’ll look at the LSD model…

Analysis of Research
To try and answer this question, Stephen Seiler and Espen Tonnessen undertook a meta-analysis of existing literature (a method of quantitatively analyzing a big database of research studies) in combination with a review of current training methodologies of Olympic and World Champion caliber athletes to try and tease out the ‘right’ answer. Seiler and Tonneson sought to “discuss this issue in a way that integrates research and practice.” Their study, published just last month in the online journal offers a comprehensive overview of the intensity-duration relationship.

The sheer volume of research in this area is simply amazing. For their purpose Seiler and Tonnessen looked at more than 90 published research articles and several real world case studies to determine which are the most effective. They then sought to standardize some of the nomenclature and research design into discernable ranges of exercise intensity that could be viewed across populations and research.

Grouping the research studies based on a “standard” categorization of exercise intensities was the first challenge in sorting through the mass of literature. Seiler and Tonneson chose to use a three zone system that correlates well with various other forms of intensity measurement that use more zones (eg a 5 zone system) or differing parameters (e.g., percentage VO2max, blood lactate concentration, etc). For the review the zones were established around the two ventilatory turn points correlated with O2 and CO2 equivalence and the movement of blood lactate levels from baseline (LT1/VT1) to supra-maximal (LT2/VT2/MLSS – maximal lactate steady state).

To further refine the discussion, Seiler and Tonnessen also defined high and low intensity training ranges based on the findings of other researchers including Robinson et al (1991), Mujika, et al (1995) and Billat, et al (2001), among others. Low intensity was defined as being below 2mMol blood lactate concentration (<2-mM), while high intensity was established as being above 4-mM blood lactate concentration. Endurance Training Volume and Intensity Endurance sports require lots of training. It was noted that cycling, in particular, was characterized by a culture where long training bouts (4-6h) were common, and where total training volume for elite level athletes routinely tops 35,000 kilometers, and over 1,200 hours per year. That averages out to over 24 hours per week, 50 weeks per year! The composition of that training was of primary importance to the authors. Time and again they make the point that most of the training volume undertaken by top tier athletes is at either levels below 2-mMol of blood lactate concentration, or above 4-mMol blood lactate concentration. Which is to say that their training is highly polarized. A couple of examples: A 2002 study by Schumacher and Muller noted the daily training mix for a group of elite level German pursuiters. In the 200 days leading up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 the athletes trained 140 days at intensities under 60% of VO2max, spent 40 days stage racing, and only 20 days of track riding at race level intensities. Further, in the last 110 days before the games the pursuit squad had only 6 days of high intensity interval training on the track. They won Gold. Billat, et al in 2001 found that a group of French and Portuguese marathon runners spent approximately 78% of their training time in Zone 1, 4% at marathon pace (correlated to Zone 2), and 18% in Zone 3. Similarly Billat et al found, in 2003, that Kenyan 5k and 10k runners spent approximately 85% of their training kilometers at levels below Lactate Threshold (LT1). Gullich, et al found that 95% of the training undertaken by world class junior rowers in the 37 weeks before the National Championships was at 2-mMol or less blood lactate concentration. When taken in total Seiler and Tonnessen advocate for an approximate intensity mix of 80:20 for low and high intensity training. They note that increases in training volume correlate well with increases in the physiological variables of performance. The Recreational Athlete So what does all this mean to the rest of us? The study did reference the training programs of recreational athlete: those who train 6 – 12 hours per week. In a 2001 study Foster et al found that most recreational athletes tend to train too hard on easy days, and not hard enough on hard days. Over time this puts the athlete into what Seiler and Tonnessen describe as the “black hole” of training intensity, where nearly every workout is completed at the same threshold intensity. This was shown in a study by Esteve-Lanao where athletes were prescribed a highly polarized training load of approximately 77-3-20% zones 1-2-3 respectively, yet based on HR recording their actual training load was 65-21-14% for zones 1-2-3 respectively. In short, they found that athletes with limited time have a hard time following a polarization protocol. Interestingly, they did not offer any additional insight as to the effects of these ‘black hole’ training regimes beyond the above mentioned Esteve-Lanao study that showed an improvement in 10k times for athletes following a polarization protocol during an 11-week study. Summary Low intensity training has long been the standard for endurance sports. Upon reviewing nearly 100 published articles and case studies, Seiler and Tonneson postulated that elite level athletes tend to progress and perform best under a program that emphasizes a high volume of low intensity exercise (<2-mMol blood lactate concentration) mixed with focused high intensity efforts at and above ones lactate threshold (>4-mMol). Their belief is that this review and approach repudiates the current trend towards high intensity and steady state training in lieu of building a traditional aerobic base. Next time we’ll look at the other side of the equation – the efficacy and effectiveness of a program built on a diet of steady state and threshold level workouts for those with less time to train.

Seiler, Stephen, and Tonnessen, Epsen. Perspectives in Training: Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance. The Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training. online journal, 13, 32-53, 2009.



Hard worker and striker. A good team member, excellent man and an uncompromising fighter against doping. German rider Jens Voigt belongs to the most popular people in the peloton. However, he nearly left it for good this year. Fortunately, he decided that in spite of a crash at the Tour de France he will race in future.

For six weeks he was not allowed to ride his bicycle. But after 48 days his crash he participated as a member of Team Saxo Bank in Tour of Missouri. Jens Voigt was back! Was it a miracle?

German media wrote of “The Comeback of the Year. Did you have similar feelings?
Well, the fall at the Tour looked very badly. It was harsh and dangerous. But luckily I did not hurt myself too much. For six weeks I was not allowed to do anything. The doctor told me: “It was a serious fall on your head, you were unconscious, therefore no sport, no cycling, no spinning, nothing”. After those six weeks I slowly started to train again. Firstly, at the hospital where the doctor monitored whether something was wrong. Then at home and finally I returned to the road.

In the past you used to say: I always try to keep a positive mind. Did that help you in your rehabilitation? 
Certainly. I never doubted, even for a second, that I would return. I am 38 years old and somebody perhaps thought that it was the end of my career. But, I did not want the fall to be the last of my career.

I heard that you wanted to end your career after the 2009 season. Is that true?
No, no, that was wrong information. I did not want to stop. I am feeling quite well and I am happy on my bike. I love this sport, and I want to have some more experiences with it.

Perhaps to celebrate the triumph of Andy Schleck at the Tour? Would it be an ideal scenario for the ending of your career? 
Perfect! And I also want to experience one more Tour, where I finish in Paris instead of lying in a hospital in central France. Andy is an excellent leader, able to win the Tour, even though I realize that it is very difficult to beat Contador. Contador is a complete rider, who is very strong in the mountains and time trials. With him in the peloton it will be difficult for us.

Is Andy Schleck the strongest team member who you experienced in your career?
I have been in this business for a lot of years. When I began my career I had Chris, an excellent rider for time trials, at my side. Or Frederika Moncassina, an excellent sprinter. And a lot of other riders. Now, we have Andy, Frank and Cancellara, a new generation – other types of riders. It is difficult to compare different generations.

stage16_006_950Let us return to your dramatic fall at the Tour. I have read that afterwards you did not recognize your family.
No, it is not true. The fall occurred at about four o’clock in the afternoon. And already at ten o’clock in the evening after the first operation I could call my family. But it’s a fact, that just after the crash we did not know how serious my injuries would be. We only knew that I would survive. And hopefully I would not end up in a wheelchair. But nobody was able to say whether I would be able to write my name again, to walk, or to do any sport. Nobody could tell me that I would be 100% ok. It was not an easy situation. I was not able to control it. I had to think positively and direct all my energy to my healing, but nothing was guaranteed to me.

What do you remember anything from the crash today? 
Nothing. I do not know how the fall happened. In my memory 30 minutes of my life is missing.

Have you seen your fall on the video?
Many times. Everybody asks about it at the start of each interview …

Daily Peloton wrote: It was a type of a fall that finished a career of many cyclists. Do you agree?
Certainly. It could have been my final crash – and I could lost my life in it (he sighs). I was going more than 80 km per hour. I could even dropped off the road, a motorcycle could have run over me. I could have broken more bones, my legs, arms… But as I say: I was very lucky.

Was it strange for you to just sit or lie at home while you were healing?
It happened in the middle of the summer so I could some activities with my children. Firstly, after my return from the hospital I was very tired after my head injury. The injury took so much energy. I was just glad that I could sit up. But after two or three hours my body told me: I want to sleep again. I had no energy. After a while I was healing well, my energy was starting to come back. Then I told myself: O.K., I can return to my bike – but it was not allowed to me by my doctors. I had to sit at home, which was really very boring. I already had my energy, but I could not use it.

Did you watch the Tour at least on TV?
Of course.

Has the crash changed you? Are you more careful descending?
I have always been careful decending, I was not crazy.

No Samuel Sánchez…
Not at all. I cannot compare with his crazy descending skills, I am far from it. In our team we have some riders with good decending skills like O´ Grady or Cancellara, but I have never been such a type. Nevertheless, in a race, it is not often your choice. You are in a group, to stay in it, and therefore you go race with the others, you try to increase your speed. I can’t think about the risks in the race. And definitely not on the consequences of my crash at the Tour where I could have died. You need to stay with the riders ahead of you and keep up with them.

Hermann Maier used to say: You need to have respect for a race, but you can never fear it. Is it similar in cycling?
A bit, yes. We are not down-hill skiers, who only focus on speed, speed and speed. Our races are much linger, profiles more varied. But if panic seizes you going down a mountain then you lose. It is the same for us and them.

stage16_002_950Approximately how many crashes a year do you experience? 
On average two or three. There are seasons when I avoid them completely, but sometimes I experience as many as seven of them.

In your opinion which crashes are more dangerous: descending or sprinting? 
Crashing when going down a mountain can cause much harm if you go very fast. But crashes before the finish where everybody is looking for the best position are much more treacherous. Sprinters are trying to win the stage and the riders from the top of classification are also there so they don’t lose time. There are many people there at speeds of around 60 km/h. Therefore a lot of bad crashes occur in the sprint.

With the Saxo Bank team the traditional “survival camp” awaits you. Is this a good experience for you?
Sure. I like it. The survival camps are tough. You are out at night in the woods in a complete darkness; often you’re hungry, cold, tired and have not a slightest idea of where you are. When you overcome everything, you are happy that you have “survived”. And at the same time you learn to work as a team. The survival camp gives us strength every year.

You also learn how to get rid of your fear there, don’t you?
Sure. You learn to control your fear and overcome it.

If everything goes according to plan, you will participate in your 13th Tour de France next year. Is thirteen your lucky number?
Well, I have to be firstly nominated into the team… And concerning that thirteen, it has no special meaning for me.

Let us stay at the numbers. You have won Critérium International five times, which means that you beat legendary Anquetil by one triumph. What is it like?
I only beat him in this small race. Otherwise I do not dare to compare with him. Five victories in the Critérium International as I did was only reached by Raymond Poulidor, therefore now I am thinking about the sixth one (laughing )

At the Tour you have had the yellow jersey twice, but due to the mountains the overall victory has never been your goal. Is it an unfulfilled goal of your career: to win a one of the Grand Tours?
Once it was… Now I know that I am too old for it. I dreamt of such triumph, when I was 28 or 29. But I know what I can and cannot do.

Do you think of the mountains?
Yes- and length of the race. Three weeks are too long for me. I am able to go well in the mountains one day, but that is my limit. But the next day I have spasms and am tired. I lose a lot of time. At the Tour you go up to the mountains again and again, which is bad for me. I am a one day racer when it comes to the mountains, I don’t do too well in the longer stage races with a lot of mountains.

The beginning of your professional career you spent in the Czech Republic in 1997 in the ZVVZ team under Jiří Ženíšek. How do you remember that time?
Yes- It was nice. Sometimes I SMSs with Ženíšek. He is glad to see me. Or he congratulates me on my birthdays. I have a good relationship with him, because it was really a nice time. It was my first professional contract with several good races. I won Round the Lower Saxony race, I was the third in the Peace Race. We had good riders in our team: Tomáš Konečný, Slavomír Heger, Kejval brothers, Tomáš Sedláček.

Do you still remember any Czech words? 
Pivo… and other, but they cannot be printed.

At present there are only two Czech cyclists in the Pro Tour teams: Roman Kreuziger and František Raboň. What do you think about them? 
Kreuziger is a big talent! It is unbelievable, how strong he is. Certainly he can be an aspirant for titles in the Grand Tours. When you win the Tour of Switzerland, you are not that far from winning a Grand Tour. And in addition he is very young. When I was racing among the amateurs the first year, I used to race with his father, who was at that time in an Austrian team. And today I race with his son – it is unbelievable.

And František Raboň?
A good time trialist, he was the champion of Europe. In the past years his growth has not been a good as he wanted, but this year he has made a great progress. I think that we can expect great things from him in future. And he has a good personality off the bicycle. Generally speaking my relationships with Czechs are very good, and I do not say this because you are Czech – they have always been excellent. You are a very friendly nation. E. G. I remember a ski camp with Jiří Ženíšek. I had some very bad skis, my technique was terrible and everyone expected me to fall at each downhill. But people kept on teaching me to ski as best as possible. Really, a lot of Czechs I have met were very friendly.

On Facebook, one of your fans wrote of you: Jens Voigt is the most pleasant guys in the peloton. Is that correct? 
Thanks. I try. I ride hard, try to escape from the peloton, but at the same time I try to be a pleasant man with a good nature. I am quite normal off my bike.

You were a spokesman of cyclist in the UCI. Was it complicated to promote their interests? 
Sometimes yes. I spoke for all riders, people from Japan, Sweden, Italy or South Africa. They did not have the same opinions concerning a lot of issues; it was difficult to reach an agreement. But it was a challenge for me, I liked it.

Three years ago all people were saying: Professional cycling is seriously ill …
Do you think the problems of doping at that time? Or with the UCI?

stage9_010_950Let us speak about doping. What do you think of the attempts to clean up cycling? You have always been a big opponent of doping.
Yes I have been. There is no apology for doping. Everybody knows that it is bad thing, a fraud, a lie. Everybody knows that is harmful not only for the rider, but for the sport. People who do such things are against cycling. Three years ago it was really bad. But we have improved the monitoring system. The testing is better, there are more tests. Cycling was the first sport in the world to test CERA, a new type of EPO. We try very hard to eliminate doping. Penalties are tougher than in other sports, in any other organization. When people are caught they receive a two year ban and therefore our sport will be cleared which is good.

When I spoke with Bobby Julich in this spring, one of the directors of Team Saxo Bank, he spoke of “several idiots”, who destroy the reputation of cycling, but he also said that similar type of people worked in other sports. Do you agree?
Sure, such notorious minorities can be found in other sports, politics and other professions. But when a car manufacturer produces bad cars, we don’t immediately think that all car manufacturers are bad. In cycling there are several idiots, who destroy the reputation of all of us. Believe me: It annoys me very much. My friends and relatives keep on asking me: What is happening in your sport? Is it impossible to win without doping? Or people will ask my wife: Your husband takes it too, does he not? These rumors and opinions are harmful for my personal life, it annoys me. Therefore, our doping program must be very strict. We must put a stop to doping.

You have mentioned your family. You have five children, the same number as tennis player Lendl. Is it difficult to be a professional cyclist and at the same time father of five children?
No, I don’t think so. First of all: Cycling is my work and thanks to it I have money to pay for our house, my children’s school, food, shoes, toys, whatever. I make my living by it. Yes, during the season I travel much and often race at weekends. But then I have a free weekday, I take my children to and from school, we go to have an ice-cream, to have a swim, go to the lake. If I had an 8-18 workday, I would not be with them much either. And after the season we usually spend a lot of time together. Due to cycling my children can go abroad with me, get in touch with other languages and cultures, which is helpful for their growth. No, it is not a disadvantage for me to be a cyclist.

Can you imagine that you would live without cycling? 
Perhaps for a year. Then I would start missing it and I would want to come back, perhaps to another position in the team. I can hardly imagine my life without cycling.